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Shapovalov ready to return to court in lead-up tournament to U.S Open

Denis Shapovalov is used to firing up the fans, and feeding off their energy in return.

The Canadian tennis star, who plays with a high-risk, high-reward style, can bring up the atmosphere in a match with a jumping two-handed-backhand winner or a cheeky between-the-legs rally extender, putting emphasis on his more audacious shots with a shout and an emphatic fist pump.

Shapovalov, however, will have to build his own spark when he returns to action at the Western & Southern Open. The tournament, normally held annually in Cincinnati, will take place at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York this year in the week leading into the U.S. Open at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Main draw action starts Saturday.

Players and staff will be isolated from the general public over the two tournaments at Flushing Meadows_Corona Park in Queens, and supporters will not be allowed in the stands due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s going to be interesting, especially in New York,” Shapovalov said from Queens in an interview Wednesday. “I feel like I have so much love and support in the city and the past years I’ve been able to gather some really big crowds.

“So it’s going to be interesting playing over here without the fans, but I’ll definitely feel their support through the screens, through the Internet, still know they’re there with me while I’m on court.”

Shapovalov said playing in a quiet stadium is nothing new, as tennis players often compete in tournaments with little fan atmosphere in the levels under the top-flight ATP and WTA Tours. Regardless of the fan condition, Shapovalov said he is itching to get back on the court for competitive matches.

The world No. 16 from Richmond Hill, Ont., hasn’t played on the ATP Tour since Feb. 21, when he lost to Alexander Bublik in the quarterfinals of the Open 13 Provence tournament in Marseille, France.

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